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The Philadelphia indie rockers of Sheer Mag are back with their sophomore album, A Distant Call, out Aug. 23 via Wilsuns RC. To give us a sneak peek of what’s to come, they’ve also just released the LP’s lead single, the brash and blistering “Blood from a Stone.”
A punchy tirade against “living check to check” in a cycle of “hard luck living,” “Blood from a Stone” kicks off the narrative-driven album by flashing back to frontwoman Tina Halladay’s life just a few years back.
Over a mesh of heavy power-pop, Halladay sings about declined SNAP benefits, and “sitting down on the kitchen stairs” and fighting the same fight she’s been fighting her whole life.
“But I won’t cry,” Halladay roars. “‘Cause I should have known / to get some comfort from my aching heart / is a blood from a stone.”
Following the lead single’s introduction, the LP promises to explore survival in what the album announcement calls “our current hellscape,” especially as political turmoil gets more personal.
“We’ve been waiting to write these songs since we started the band and we were able to take these experiences and build a story out of them,” Halladay said in a statement.
Verging on a concept piece, the band’s new album finds them writing through the eyes of a protagonist who resembles, but isn’t completely Halladay.
Plucked out of a time of alienation and anxiety, the tracks document Halladay’s life when she was laid off from a job, broke and newly single. To top it off, her father, with whom she had a complicated relationship, passed away, leaving her with wounds from which it was difficult to fully recover.
An argument for socialism through anecdotes, A Distant Call uses its protagonist’s struggles to shine a light on how capitalism alienates and commodifies the worker.
At the album’s pivot point, “Cold Sword,” the protagonist tries to make the most of her life, despite the pain and suffering she’s been dealt, before the LP then moves on to the bright melody and anthemic lyrics of “Chopping Block.”
“Between the parties there’s no light,” the lyrics of “Chopping Block” read, riling up listeners to take action. “We need workers to unite / We can decide to have another world / but we’re gonna have to fight.”
We see the protagonist’s confidence bloom with “The Right Stuff” as she discusses the tie between her weight and self-image within the imprisoning walls of societal beauty standards.
“If you’re worried about my health,” Halladay defiantly counters. “Shut your mouth and keep it to yourself.”
The protagonist’s travails reach a fever pitch in “The Killer,” where her eyes are open to the system that’s been keeping her down and the rich politicians controlling her life as they’re “shaking hands on the state floor.”
“It’s the penultimate track on the album, and it best exemplifies Sheer Mag’s growth from those nascent three EPs to now,” a press release explains. “The production is razor-sharp, and the gang vocal motifs are as playful as they are ferocious.”
Despite the dismal tone of much of the album, it’s also laced with glimmers of hope and an overarching message of resilience.
“They wanna see us fall,” Halladay hopefully sings on “Keep on Runnin.” “But I hear a distant call.”
Plucked from the Northeastern DIY circuit, Sheer Mag began their rise after the 2014 release of the first of their three 7-inches. Pulling from ‘70s arena rock and power-pop, the four-piece excavated the contemporary political landscape with stinging rallying cries by looking back on history, from the 1969 Stonewall Riots to the work of White Rose activist Sophie Scholl. We praised their 2017 debut LP Need to Feel Your Love as one of the very best albums released that year.
Give “Blood from a Stone” a listen below, and keep scrolling for the A Distant Call tracklist and album art, plus Sheer Mag’s tour dates.
A Distant Call Tracklist:
01. Steel Sharpens Steel
02. Blood From A Stone
03. Unfound Manifest
04. Silver Line
05. Hardly To Blame
06. Cold Sword
07. Chopping Block
08. The Right Stuff
09. The Killer
10. Keep On Runnin
A Distant Call Album Art:
Sheer Mag Tour Dates:
22 – Philadelphia, Pa. @ World Cafe Live
24 – Seattle, Wash.@ The Crocodile
25 – Olympia, Wash. @ Capitol Theater
26 – Portland, Ore. @ Hawthorne Theater
28 – Reno, Nev. @ Holland Project
29 – Las Vegas, Nev. @ American Legion Hall
30 – Santa Ana, Calif. @ Observatory
02 – Los Angeles, Calif. @ Zebulon
03 – San Diego, Calif. @ Irenic
05 – Fresno, Calif. @ Strummers
06-07 – Oakland, Calif. @ Burger Boogaloo
30 – Kingston, N.Y. @ BSP Kingston
31 – Burlington, Vt. @ Higher Ground
01 – Montreal, Que. @ La Sala Rossa
03 – Toronto, Ont. @ Lee’s Palace
04 – Detroit, Mich. @ Deluxx Fluxx
05 – Columbus, Ohio @ Ace of Cups
06 – Chicago, Ill. @ Lincoln Hall
07 – Madison, Wis, @ The Terrace at UW-Madison
08 – Minneapolis, Minn. @ Turf Club
09 – Des Moines, Iowa @ Vaudeville Mews
10 – Omaha, Neb. @ The Slowdown
12 – Denver, Colo. @ Larimer Lounge
13 – Salt Lake City, Utah @ Diabolical Records
14 – Boise, Idaho @ The Olympic
16 – Vancouver, B.C. @ The Biltmore
21 – San Jose, Calif. @ The Ritz
22 – Los Angeles, Calif. @ The Teragram Ballroom
24 – Tucson, Ariz. @ Club Congress
26 – Austin, Texas @ Barracuda
27 – San Antonio, Texas @ Paper Tiger
28 – Houston, Texas @ The Satellite
29 – New Orleans, La. @ Santo’s
01 – Birmingham, Ala. @ Saturn
02 – Atlanta, Ga. @ 529 Club
03 – Asheville, N.C. @ The Mothlight
04 – Durham, N.C. @ Motorco Music Hall
05 – Washington, D.C. @ The Black Cat
09 – Brooklyn, N.Y. @ Elsewhere
11 – Boston, Mass. @ The Sinclair
25 – Amsterdam, Netherlands @ London Calling Festival
26 – Aarhus, Denmark @ Tape
27 – Copenhagen, Denmark @ Loppen
29 – Hamburg, Germany @ Molotow
30 – Berlin, Germany @ Zukunft am Ostkreuz
02 – London, U.K. @ Mirrors Festival
04 – Manchester, U.K. @ Yes
05 – Dublin, Ireland @ Grand Social
06 – Leeds, U.K. @ Brudenell Social Club
08 – Kortrijk, Belgium @ Sonic City 2019
09 – Benidorm, Spain @ Primavera 20th Aniv, Weekender